When Ghana achieved its independence on 6 March 1957, it had gone through mainly peaceful steps, such as general elections and the passing of legislation in our Parliament to change the constitutional status of the country. All that was needed was that Britain, which was our colonial administrator, should also pass legislation putting into effect the new constitutional status of our country.
I remember the excitement with which we received the news in September 1956 that Britain had agreed to the date of our independence. A BBC news bulletin, carried live by "the Gold Coast Broadcasting System" (as Radio Ghana was then called) told us: "It has been simultaneously announced in London and Accra that the British colony of the Gold Coast is to become independent on 6 March 1957."
Most Ghanaians were thus shepherded from the unsavoury aspects of colonialism. In fact, apart from 1948, when the British had arrested the leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) and detained them for "inciting" strikes and encouraging the looting of foreign-owned shops, and generally causing unrest--in which three ex-servicemen were killed while marching towards the seat of government, Christiansborg Castle in Accra, to present a petition to Governor Sir Gerald Creasy - our struggle for freedom had been relatively peaceful.
The leader of our struggle, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, and some of his lieutenants were jailed by the British for allegedly publishing "seditious" material in their newspapers. But other than that, all the difficulties that lay in Ghana's path to independence were caused by rivalries that arose among the leaders of our own political parties over who should wield power in the country. These rivalries resulted in violence breaking out in the country from 1954 to 1956 between the party in power, the Convention People's Party (CPP), and the opposition National Liberation Movement (NLM). But after the CPP had defeated the NLM in two elections (held in 1954 and 1956), the British felt the CPP was strong enough to lead Ghana to independence, and so the date was announced. So by the time we achieved independence, most Ghanaians were under the impression that colonialism could be defeated by largely peaceful means. We had no idea that in some countries, such as Kenya and Algeria, the situation was completely different.
In both Kenya and Algeria, there were large populations of white people, or settlers, originally from Britain and France, who did not intend to go back to Britain and France. The African populations there had therefore resorted to violence to try and kick them out.
At Radio Ghana, where I had begun to work in 1957, we used news items sent to us about these conflicts, without giving them any context. Reuters, a news agency based in Britain, and the BBC were our only sources of news about the so-called Mau Mau uprising in Kenya.
Reuters and the French news agency AFP were our sources of news from Algeria. With the best will in the world, these agencies were staffed by people who were sympathetic to the white populations of Kenya and Algeria, and however hard they tried, their bias could be gleaned through the news they sold to us.
The Kenyan fighters were presented as murderous tribalists who senselessly killed non-Kikuyus, and sometimes, white people, especially women and children.
The Algerians were cast in an even more barbarous light. Because they were in possession of more modern weapons than the Kenyans, they were presented as "terrorists" who did not hesitate to throw bombs into crowds of civilians gathered in markets and elsewhere.
French atrocities were always presented as police action taken to root out these "terrorists". So, by the time I made my first trip outside Ghana a year after independence, first to Cairo and then to the Soviet Union and China, I was still euphoric about what had happened in Ghana, and imagined that most colonial countries were being guided along a largely smooth constitutional path to independence. …